I really had not yet been able to make up my mind whether I liked Uriah or detested him; and I was very doubtful about it still, as I stood looking him in the face in the street.
Uriah Heep features in C harles Dickens' eighth novel, David Copperfield. Introduced in the second half of the novel, Uriah Heep is the picture of hypocrisy - though he speaks of humility, or what he calls "umbleness", he is really a sneaking, snaky villain who attempts to take hold of the Wickfield law firm and the Wickfield daughter, Agnes. There is a reason behind his madness - or at least, he thinks so, blaming the class society for his disadvantages - but he is nevertheless distrusted and despised by many of the characters in the novel, even those who know they are under his control. Dickens' portrayal of Uriah Heep is so starkly memorable that he is one of the most famous characters in literature.
Uriah Heep is believed to be based upon two individuals Dickens met during his career - Hans Christian Andersen and Thomas Powell. Enthused by their presumed "friendship", Andersen invited himself to stay at Dickens' home. He really overstayed his welcome - Dickens considered him the "houseguest from Hell" and even put up a sign in the room afterward stating "Hans Christian Andersen slept in this room for five weeks which seemed to the family AGES." It is likely from this experience that Dickens derived the uneasy visit from Heep in a chapter of the novel. Uriah's schemes, however are more likely based on Thomas Powell, employee to a friend of Dickens. Powell "ingratiated himself into the Dickens household" and eventually was uncovered as a forger and a thief, having embezzled 10,000 pounds from his employer. He later verbally attacked Dickens in pamphlets, calling particular attention to his class background. He was later deemed a lunatic.
Heep of Infamy
Want to find out more about Uriah? Check out the pages below:
Story: How Heep fits into the plot of the story, and his influence as one of the major villains of the novel. Spoilers!